Television currently has a lot of monsters. There was a time when horror television—especially comedic horror television—was a niche interest. Now it’s hard to turn on a channel that doesn’t feature zombies, vampires, or some look at the paranormal. Stan Against Evil is a relative newcomer to the horror scene, but with a season under its belt, the show knows how to be spooky, hilarious, as well as distinctly its own thing. The IFC horror comedy series relies strongly on characterization and heightened personalities that act as the audience’s guide through the supernaturally charged hamlet of Willard’s Mill.
Stan Against Evil’s first season was helpful in giving John C. McGinley a new ridiculous playground to channel his comedic talents as the titular Stan. The show’s new season manages to expand its mythology to exciting new places as it also throws more absurd monsters into the mix, too. With Stan Against Evil’s sophomore season about to hit, we got the opportunity to chat with creator Dana Gould about the show’s growth, the new beasties that drive Willard’s Mill crazy, and if somehow the show could cross over with Ash Vs. The Evil Dead.
DEN OF GEEK: How did you figure out the approach and direction for the show’s second season?
DANA GOULD: The first season of any show forces you to really be dedicated to establishing that world and setting up the premise and characters. I felt that we did a fairly good job of that—and a lot of it has to do with having such a talented cast. I wouldn’t want anyone else in those roles, and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. But they just nail it.
So I treated this second season like a second act. Now it’s time to really get these characters in trouble. What I really wanted to do was expand the characters and challenge them more in the second year now that we know them. What I thought was interesting is that the character that is the most set in his ways is obviously Stan, so I wanted to give him a temptation that he couldn’t resist. So the arc of the second season involves him going behind Evie’s back and trying to bring his wife back to life. As a result, Stan has to cut deals and interact with people and entitles that he normally would be fighting against. He’s sort of playing a double-blind game, which I thought was an interesting direction to take these characters. All of this also set me up in the position that it gave me a great idea for season three, if we’re fortunate enough to get that far.
The way I do the show is sort of like The X-Files in the sense that there are both mythology episodes and standalone stories. The mythology ones have a bigger scope and are usually a little heavier and you can just have a lot of fun with the standalones. In terms of how I move the mythology, I’d actually say that I steal more from Battlestar Galactica in terms of how they really put their characters through the wringer and push hard all the time. I’m often like, “How would Battlestar Galactica handle this situation and then what’s our version of that?”
I’m glad you touched on that dichotomy of episode structures because mythology is great, but you shed some light on how this show goes about breaking its more episodic entries. Were there any crazy ideas that you guys couldn’t crack or decided to shelve in the end?
There’s one that I don’t know how I’m going to do yet so I keep kicking it down the road. It’s a story that involves a number of entities at once and it’s a situation where you join forces with an enemy because there’s another enemy in common between the two of you. They did this really well in Blade II. I want to go in that direction with it, but with our smaller budget it may be more like the school play version of Blade II.
Is there any sort of monster or horror trope that you haven’t featured in the show but would like to at some point?
Tons! So many. Something I’m not going to do though is zombies or vampires because they’ve already been done better in other places. I’m not going to top The Walking Dead, so why even try? But there are things like the werepony, where I get to have fun and do an homage to An American Werewolf in London, for example. Another episode, “Girls’ Night” does a riff on The Shining.
I really want to do the Spanish Moss Monster from Kolchak the Night Stalker and at some point we’ll do our version of that. It’s just fun to get to play with your favorite tropes. Like I’m sure we’ll do a Ten Little Indians episode where everyone’s in just one location and people start dying one after another. Then on top of that there are things that I want to do, like Evil Denise.
The finale of each season really speaks to this idea, but do you see Evie as more of the protagonist of this show than Stan? There’s a strong case to be made there.
Oh absolutely, and she always was! Stan is the object and Evie’s the subject. That’s always been the case. Also, the character of Stan was originally a much smaller role. Stan was based on my dad, who’s 87, and was meant to be this older guy who didn’t really do anything. But then John got the part and obviously that led to the character changing in a lot of ways. However, the intention of the character never changed. Stan doesn’t want to do any of this crap that he’s caught up in. He’s not interested and doesn’t care.
This season there’s a piece of backstory that we get in regards to why Stan becomes a cop and it’s somewhat traumatic. Should this moment be viewed as significant, or is meant to be more of a humorous origin story for the character?
It’s actually something that happened to me–I found a dead guy by the lake when I was kid, which was the inspiration for Stan’s backstory. When that happened to me it made me want to be a detective for the rest of the summer. This was in 1976 because in 1977 I wanted to be Han Solo. But this happened to me and I thought it was an unusual, creepy thing to happen to a kid, which I knew for a fact was effective. I also just liked the idea of Stan encountering a moment like that and taking it in the wrong direction.
Do you have a favorite episode or set piece from this season that you’re particularly proud of and excited for people to see?
I can think of a moment that I love from every episode, but “Curse of the Werepony” really came together exactly how I wanted. I was lucky that David Koechner was available too and stuff like that worked in my favor as well. The two other moments that really resonate for me are towards the end of the season and involve an emotional exchange between Evie and Stan and an impromptu ending we put together for our demon baby episode.
That episode was supposed to end in the woods but it rained for two weeks straight and we just couldn’t use the woods in the end. So myself, Rob Cohen, and Molly Coffee who’s our set designer and art director, had a single conversation that basically went from mentioning a blanket fort, to the blanket fort becoming the Nostromo from Alien, and therefore blanket-like cocoons being used in the final act. What was great about that is in on 10-minute conversation, three people through necessity came up with something that was so much better than the original.
Finally Dana, obviously Willard’s Mill and its history are such a crucial part of the show, but could you ever see Stan and company move somewhere else and take the evil to someplace new?
I think that Willard’s Mill is kind of essential. It’s like Twin Peaks or Collinsport, Maine from Dark Shadows. It’s this weird, semi-magical geographical location that’s tucked away. It sort of feels like it’s still stuck in the ’70s over there. It certainly has the color palette of the time.
A lot of people have talked about us doing a crossover with Ash Vs. The Evil Dead, which is something that I can’t ever imagine the many lawyers that it would involve would ever agree to, but we wouldn’t have a problem with it. I don’t think they would either. I’m friends with all those guys over there. But I’m all for taking the show to places like that. I also like travelling through time. It’s great when you take the ease out of that trope—it should never be easy and that’s what’s fun for me about it.
Stan Against Evil’s second season premieres on November 1st at 10pm with back-to-back episodes on IFC.